Chinese Thread

Hi everyone, 大家好 (dàjiā hǎo)! I’ve been thinking of starting a Chinese thread for Mandarin, similar to the Swedish Lessons thread, so here it is! Questions, corrections and other contributions are all welcome :thumbs:

I was inspired to start a Chinese thread after watching a Ted Talk video about learning to read Chinese. However, I prefer to start with phonetics, so I’ll do so. Radicals would be a good topic to have too later on.

Contents

General

Vocabulary

Chinese Quotes

Chinese phonetics - 注音 (zhùyīn) and 拼音 (pīnyīn)

As you may know, Chinese uses a character-based writing system, and thus may seem to have no apparent alphabet. However, Chinese has something similar to Japanese hiragana, called 注音 (zhùyīn), literally “phonetic”, or “note”+“sound”, which is a set of symbols representing phonetics. There is also a corresponding westernized equivalent called 拼音 (pīnyīn), literally “alphabetic”, or “spell”+“sound”. The bolded letters, “pīnyīn” is already an example of how pīnyīn is used and looks like :tongue:.

Note however that these are only used as pronunciation guides, and are never used to replace formal characters in writing. As such, there is generally no need to learn zhùyīn, since pīnyīn was created as a one-is-to-one replacement for zhùyīn to make it easier for westerners to learn Mandarin. Most online sites, including Google translate also use pīnyīn to show the pronunciation.

The Chinese “alphabet” has 21 consonants (initials) and 16 vowels (finals). There are also 4(+1) tones, which will be discussed later.

Below are the 注音 zhùyīn symbols with their corresponding 拼音 pīnyīn equivalents.

Consonants or Initials

Except for ㄐㄑㄒ (which are pronounced with a long “ee” sound), all other consonants are pronounced by themselves with a very short “uh” sound, as if just sounding out the consonant sound in English.

Note also that there are many pairs of unaspirated and aspirated consonants. When pronouncing unaspirated consonants, you should feel no air coming from your mouth if you hold your palm in front of it, while the opposite is true for aspirated consonants. Chinese actually has no “b”, “d” and “g” sounds, however these letters are used in pīnyīn to represent the unaspirated “p”, “t” and “k” sounds respectively.

Finally, there are three sets of consonants with similar initial sounds: ㄐㄑㄒ, pronounced with an “ee” sound; ㄓㄔㄕ, pronounced with an “h” consonant cluster; and ㄗㄘㄙ, with the plain consonant sounds.

ㄅ = b (unaspirated “p” sound)
ㄆ = p (aspirated “p” sound)
ㄇ = m
ㄈ = f

ㄉ = d (unaspirated “t” sound)
ㄊ = t (aspirated “t” sound)
ㄋ = n
ㄌ = l

ㄍ = g (unaspirated “k” sound)
ㄎ = k (aspirated “k” sound)
ㄏ = h

ㄐ = j (unaspirated “tsee” sound, similar to a “dzee” sound)
ㄑ = q (aspirated “tsee” sound)
ㄒ = x (“see” sound, but with more air)

ㄓ = zh (unaspirated “ch” sound, similar to a “dzh” sound)
ㄔ = ch (aspirated “ch” sound)
ㄕ = sh (“sh” sound, but with more air)
ㄖ = r

ㄗ = z (unaspirated “ts” sound, similar to a “dz” sound)
ㄘ = c (aspirated “ts” sound)
ㄙ = s (“s” sound, but with more air)

Vowels or Finals

As with the consonants, there are also three sets of vowels with similar vowel sounds: ㄚㄜ, which are the plain vowel sounds; ㄢㄣ, pronounced with a final “n” sound; and ㄤㄥ, prnounced with a final “ng” sound.

ㄚ = a (short “a” sound as in “far”)
ㄛ = o (short “o” sound, as in somewhat in between “awe” and “oh”; lips are more rounded)
ㄜ = e (short “uh” sound; always used alone or directly after a consonant phonetic)
ㄝ = (i)e (short “e” sound as in “bed”; there is no confusion with ㄜ because ㄝ always comes after the ㄧ (yi) phonetic, to form the “ie” combination when spelled out in pīnyīn)

ㄞ = ai (long “i” sound as in “hi”)
ㄟ = ei (long “a” sound as in “hay”)
ㄠ = ao (“ow” sound as in “how”)
ㄡ = ou (long “o” sound as in “hoe”)

ㄢ = an (short “an” sound as in “can”)
ㄣ = en (short “un” sound as in "fun)
ㄤ = ang (short “ang” sound as in “hang”)
ㄥ = eng (short “ung” sound as in “hung”)

ㄦ = er (short “er” sound as in “her”)
ㄧ = yi (long “ee” sound as in “see”; the “y” is not sounded if pronounced alone or following a consonant; when spelled in pīnyīn following a consonant, the “y” is dropped.)
ㄨ = wu (long “oo” sound as in “soon”; the “w” is not sounded when pronounced alone or following a consonant; when spelled in pīnyīn following a consonant, the “w” is dropped.)
ㄩ = yü (“yuee” sound, similar to the ㄧ(yi) phonetic, but the “y” is sounded, and lips are more rounded; when spelled in pīnyīn following a consonant, the “y” is dropped.)

Tones

Chinese has four tones, plus a fifth neutral tone, which is usually used for sentence-final particles like 嗎 Simplified: 吗 (ma), 吧 (ba) and 呢 (ne), or repeated characters like 爸爸 (bàba) or 媽媽 Simplified: 妈妈 (māma) Since it’s a neutral tone, there is no tonal mark used in pīnyīn. However, in zhùyīn, the fifth tone is represented by a dot above the consonant.

  1. 第一聲 Simplified: 第一声 (dì yī shēng) First tone: This is pronounced like a monotone sound. No tonal mark is used for zhùyīn, while a horizontal line is used in pīnyīn, such as in 巴 (bā).
  2. 第二聲 Simplified: 第二声 (dì èr shēng) Second tone: This is pronounced with a short upward inflection, somewhat like when asking “huh?” The tonal symbol for both for zhùyīn and pīnyīn is an upward flick, such as in 拔 (bá).
  3. 第三聲 Simplified: 第三声 (dì sān shēng) Third tone: This is pronounced with a deep and gentle downward dip followed by a very subtle upward inflection, which is often dropped. The tonal symbol for both zhùyīn and pīnyīn is a checkmark, such as in 把 (bǎ).
  4. 第四聲 Simplified: 第四声 (dì sì shēng) Fourth tone: This is pronounced with a quicker downward tone, as if angry. The tonal symbol for both zhùyīn and pīnyīn is a downward mark, such as in 爸 (bà).

Tones are often practiced by repeating the same syllable in each of the four tones : bā bá bǎ bà. pā pá pǎ pà. mā má mǎ mà. fā fá fǎ fà.

Chinese syllables:

  • Each Chinese character is composed of exactly one syllable.
  • Some words are composed of two or more characters, and in pīnyīn, all syllables of the word are written together with no space. There is no confusion where each syllable begins and ends because of the specific combinations of phonetics allowed.
  • Each syllable is composed of 0 or 1 consonant followed by 0-2 vowels, with at least one zhùyīn. The corresponding pīnyīn is always spelled with at least one English vowel.
  • Zhùyīn is written vertically with the consonant on top and the vowel/s at the bottom, usually on the right of the character it represents. Pīnyīn is written from left to right, usually below or next to the character.
  • Each syllable has a tone. In zhùyīn, the tone symbol is always written at the upper right of the last vowel of the syllable, or above the consonant if there are no vowels. For pīnyīn, the tone symbol is written above the first English vowel of the last phonetic part of the syllable (For example, in the syllable ㄐㄧㄠ (jiāo), the tonal symbol is written above the “a”, which is the first English vowel of the last phonetic sound ㄠ (ao).

Phonetic combinations:
For a full list of phonetic combinations, along with the pronunciations in different tones, here is a source at echineselearning.com.

  • Most of the consonants must be paired with at least one vowel to form the phonetics of an actual word. Only the last 7 consonants can stand alone in a syllable. When spelled alone in pīnyīn, the letter “i” is added to the end of the syllable: ㄓ(zhi) jㄔ(chi) ㄕ(shi) ㄖ(ri) ㄗ(zi) ㄘ(ci) ㄙ(si), and the tonal mark is above the “i”. The pronunciation remains the same with the super short “uh” sound. There is no confusion since these consonants never appear before the ㄧ(yi) phonetic.
  • ㄐ(j) ㄑ(q) ㄒ(x), the only consonants pronounced with a long “ee” sound, can only be used directly before the ㄧ(yi) or ㄩ (yü) phonetics
  • All vowels can stand alone, except for ㄝ and ㄟ.
  • Vowels may also come in pairs, but only ㄧ(yi) ㄨ(wu) ㄩ(yü) can be the first in a two-vowel combination. When this happens, the pronunciation may change accordingly. For example, the syllable ㄅㄧㄢ(b + yi + an = bian) is pronounced with a short “ie” sound, like in the Spanish “bien”, but quicker as one syllable. On the other hand, the syllable ㄅㄧㄣ(b + yi + en = bin) is pronounced with a short “i” as “pin”.

Special rules in pīnyīn for vowel combinations: (These are only rules for spelling, but pronunciation is not affected.)

  • In the above example, the pīnyīn of ㄅㄧㄣ is spelled as “bin” instead of “bien”. This is a special rule for the combinations ㄧㄣ(yi + en = yin) and ㄧㄥ(yi + eng = ying). In this case, the final “e” is dropped, and the “i” remains.
  • A similar rule applies with the ㄨㄣ combination, unless there is no consonant in the syllable. That is, ㄨㄣ(wu + en = wen), but ㄉㄨㄣ(du + en = dun). The ㄨㄥ(wu + eng = weng) combination is never found after a consonant.
  • When the syllable has no consonant and ㄧ(yi) or ㄨ(wu) are combined with another vowel (with the exceptions of ㄧㄣ, ㄧㄥ, and consonant+ㄨㄣ special cases above), the “i” or “u” is dropped. For example, ㄧㄢ (yi + an = yan), and ㄨㄛ(wu + o = wo).
  • For vowel combinations ㄧㄡ (yi + ou = you) and ㄨㄟ (wu + ei = wei) when followed by a consonant, the first letter of the last phonetic is dropped instead. For example, ㄉㄧㄡ (d + yi + ou = diu) and ㄉㄨㄟ (d + wu + ei = dui).
  • When not preceded by a consonant, or when ㄩ(yü) comes after ㄐ(j) ㄑ(q) or ㄒ(x), the dots above the “ü” are dropped. This is because ㄜ(u) and ㄨ(wu) can never come after ㄧ(yi), ㄐ(j) ㄑ(q) or ㄒ(x), so there will be no confusion.

So I think I’ve covered most of it. If I missed anything, or if you have better examples or questions, feel free to add or ask!

Additional references:
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bopomofo
translate.google.com.ph/m/translate
chineseclass101.com/chinese-pronunciation/

Change log:

  • Corrected and added some notes for the pronunciation of the last three vowels ㄧㄨㄩ, and corrected all the misspellings of “pronounciation
  • Added pīnyīn rule for ㄧㄡ and ㄨㄟ combinations when follwed by a consonant in the syllable, and added change log.
  • Edited with dreamtimer.sourceforge.io/endecoder/
  • Formatting edits

I didn’t know that Chinese had a phonetic alphabet! Thank you for the info!

In in! I just started learning Chinese recently. I’ve seen this phonetic, I want to learn it - but I think I’ll go with pinyin because my textbook uses it. I’ve been a bit slow in my lessons lately because I’m working a 50 hour week & riding my bike 45 minutes each way - so I’m taaaard. But I’m keeping up with it in small steps.

You’re welcome :smile: I figured most people wouldn’t know, but I thought it would be useful to see where the romanization comes from, so that’s why I chose this for the first lesson.

Welcome! I do plan to stick with pīnyīn in this thread, since it’s more commonly used now and easier to type. However just make sure to read it in the Chinese way and not the English way :wink: I sometimes convert the pīnyīn back to zhùyīn in my head to avoid doing that, especially for the “zh”, “z” and “c” sounds. And also the “-i” after stand-alone consonants.

Edited with dreamtimer.sourceforge.io/endecoder/

Traditional 繁體 (fántǐ) and Simplifed 简体 (jiǎntǐ) Chinese characters

As you may have noticed in the previous lesson, some of the characters have the comment “Simplified:” next to them, with a different, but somewhat similar character. This is because Chinese has two writing systems, namely 繁體 (fántǐ), literally “complicated form”, or Traditional, and 简体 (jiǎntǐ), literally “simplified form”, or simply Simplified. :tongue:
And yes, “體” (tǐ) and “体” (tǐ) are exactly the same word, but written in the two different forms. :thud:

The two terms are pretty much self-explanatory :wink:


Some background on written Chinese:

In the olden days, there was only the Traditional form.
An interesting thing about written Chinese is that despite the different variations or dialects, they many characters are written the same. Thus people from different regions could understand each other, through writing, may be able to pick out familiar words or phrases in other dialects despite the characters possibly being pronounced completely differently in each variation (all phonetics in this thread are for Mandarin, unless otherwise specified).

At some point, Simplified Chinese was developed in an attempt to improve literacy, [citation needed] basically simplifying the strokes of more complex characters, and sometimes merging two similar characters into one, so that fewer characters would have to be learned. Simplified, then, looks less intimidating, especially to new learners. As an effect, it generally becomes easier to write and to read, especially when typed with smaller fonts and in bold.

However, this simplification also comes with a downside, the main one is that the meaning of the word is sometimes lost.


Loss of meaning

For example, let’s take the Chinese word meaning “love”:
Traditional form: 愛 (ài)
Simplified form: 爱 (ài)

The traditional form contains the word 心 (xīn), which means “heart”. This is completely lost in the Simplified form. I have no idea why they designed it this way. Apparently 心 is more difficult to write when part of a more complex character?

The Epoch Times gives some more examples of loss of meaning.


Patterns

Anyway a good thing is that a lot of the simplifications are done in logical patterns. For example, the character 說 (shuō) meaning “to say” is simplified to 说. Whenever you see the root 言 (yán), or “word” / “speech”, in a traditional character, it will always be simplified in the same way (though interestingly enough, “言” itself is still retained as “言”). In the Simplified version, the 口 (kǒu) or “mouth” is gone. However if you’re familiar with this pattern, you would be able to associate it for other words.

Some examples:

Traditional form: 說話 (shuōhuà), meaning “to speak”
Simplified form: 说话 (shuōhuà), meaning “to speak”

Traditional form: 請 (qǐng), saying “please”
Simplified form: 请 (qǐng), saying “please”

Traditional form: 謝謝 (xièxie), meaning “thanks”
Simplified form: 谢谢 (xièxie), meaning “thanks”


Accessibility

Personally I prefer Traditional Chinese, because that was what I learned. My first reaction to Simplfied Chinese was disappointment, and somewhat disgust, feeling that it was not “real” Chinese. However, I recognize its growing use and plan to include the Simplified version for all lessons, so it won’t be necessary to learn both, and you can stick with the form you prefer or are already learning.

While I didn’t explicitly learn Simplified Chinese, many of the characters are the same, or similar enough to Traditional form to decipher easily. For those completely different characters, it’s easy enough to become familiar with them through exposure, especially if they are common words. (And if they’re not, then they won’t come up much :tongue:).

Simplified Chinese is generally more widely used nowadays in China and Singapore, while Traditional Chinese is still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and parts of Southeast Asia. Thus your learning source would be a big factor in which writing system is taught.

[Poll]So which form are you learning / which would you like to learn?[/Poll]

Additional resource (Which form to learn?):
https://www.vengaglobal.com/blog/simplified-traditional-chinese-mandarin-cantonese/


Change Log:

  • Edited with dreamtimer.sourceforge.io/endecoder/
  • Formatting; edited statements on Some background on written Chinese
  • Changed last paragraph under Accessibility; Removed expired link under Additional resources

Chinese input methods: Typing Chinese characters

There are many different ways to type Chinese characters! You can type using phonetics, stroke order, roots, or even by manually writing the character on your screen. Having different input methods is useful for when you have only partial familiarity with the character you wish to type.

Below are some of the common input methods, available for both Simplified and Traditional Chinese.


1. 主音 (Zhùyīn) or 拼音 (Pīnyīn) Input Methods

If you know the phonetics of a word, you can type Chinese using a Zhùyīn (注) or a Pīnyīn (拼) keyboard. Simply type the phonetics in order, and choose the appropriate character among the choices that appear (like with auto predicting text). In older versions, you will also need to indicate the tone, but this is not necessary for newer versions.

You don’t have to know exactly how to write the word, but you do need to have enough familiarity to choose the correct character from the list. As with other autopredict systems, the most common characters or phrases appear first, and may appear even before typing the entire phonetic. In newer versions like the one in the screenshot, there is also no need to stop to choose each character individually.

Below is the sample of typing the common greeting 你好 (Nǐ hǎo), literally “you” + “good”

Zhùyīn Input Method:

Pīnyīn Input Method:


(Conveniently, the pīnyīn keyboard looks exactly the same as a regular qwerty keyboard.)

*Note: As there’s no “ü” on the keyboard, letter “v” is used instead, since it’s the only English letter not used in pīnyīn.


2. 筆劃 / 笔画 (Bǐhuà), or "Stroke" Input Method

If you don’t know how a character is pronounced, but know how to write it, you can use the Bǐhuà, or Stroke Count Method, usually marked with the symbol 筆 (for traditional) or 笔 (for simplified).

Writing in Chinese follows a specific stroke order, and one limitation for this method is that the stroke order must be correct. So you really need to know how to write the character, and not just how it looks like. However, as with other auto predictive text, it’s usually not necessary to go through the entire stroke sequence for the desired character to appear as a suggestion.

Below is a sample of typing 我 (wǒ), the Chinese word for “me”. Note that the character already was suggested after the first stroke, but in the sample below, I completed the whole stroke sequence. (Also, apparently my setting uses Taiwanese stroke order, as seen in the link below) https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/我

Bǐhuà Input Method:


3. 倉頡 / 仓颉 (Cāngjié) Input Method (pronounced like "tsang dzie")

Another alternate system is the Cāngjié Input Method, marked with the symbol 倉, and normally used with Traditional Chinese. As with the Bǐhuà method, you don’t need to know how the character is pronounced, but you do need to know character composition before you can use this system. Some dictionaries or online sites like wiktionary include the character’s Cāngjié code.

Below is a sample typing the same character 我 (wǒ), which has the Cāngjié code 竹手戈 or HQI on the qwerty layout.

Cāngjié Input Method:

Update: As of March 2020, I started learning the 倉頡 Cāngjié method, using a YouTube source, which teaches by breaking down the learning process:

  1. Learn the 24 basic shapes
  2. Learn simple characters that use the basic shapes / Part B
  3. Learn the auxilliary shapes / Part B / Part C
  4. Learn the basic decomposition rules / Part B / Part C
  5. Learn the special shapes / Part B
  6. Practice and familiarize with examples to better understand how the rules are applied / Part B

Note that unlike the 筆劃 / 笔画 (Bǐhuà) or “Stroke” method, typing using 倉頡 Cāngjié does not always match writing strokes and sequence. However, for both typing methods, the correct sequence of codes must used.

While the 倉頡 Cāngjié typing method may have a steeper learning curve due to the structured rules, once mastered, it is known to be a quick way to type, as all Chinese characters can be typed with a maximum of 5 key presses (unlike Bǐhuà), and each sequence of codes represents a limited number of characters, with most codes representing a unique character (unlike Zhùyīn or Pīnyīn - For example, typing “HQI” using the 倉頡 Cāngjié method will only give two options (我 or 牫), while typing “wo” in Pīnyīn will give over fifty options).


4. 手寫 Handwriting / Mousewriting Input Method

As the name implies, this input method allows for free-hand writing of the Chinese character.

Below is a sample writing the word 愛 Simplified 爱 (ài) meaning “love”.
Chinese Handwriting Input Method:

Note that the handwriting doesn’t have to accurately match the character, and proper order of strokes doesn’t have to be followed. For example, the writing below, which looks pretty much nothing like the character 愛, is still recognized well enough.


Also, although the keyboard setting is to Traditional form, writing in Simplified form would still be recognized, and I assume this is true vice versa as well.

While you don’t have to know the correct stroke order, it would still help to be able to write the character quickly. A downside is that writing too slow would stop recognizing the succeeding strokes as still part of one character. Also, each character needs to be written one by one.


Personally, I find the Pīnyīn keyboard the easiest to use, and just switch to handwriting if I don’t know how the word is pronounced, or if I want to practice writing out the character. Choose the one, or ones, which would work best for you :wink:

As of March 2020, I have been trying out Cāngjié, and I find it fun to use, though I sometimes have to look up the codes for words I can’t figure out yet.


Change log:

  • Added note on letter “v” under the pinyin input method.
  • Edited with dreamtimer.sourceforge.io/endecoder/
  • Added notes and YouTube source for 倉頡 Cāngjié.
  • Formatting and dividers

Chinese is relatively easy in terms of grammar and sentence construction. There are no cases, no conjugation, no plural forms, no verb tenses, no articles. There is just the basic Subject - Verb - Object. Once you build your vocabulary, it will be pretty straightforward to form sentences. So let’s start with personal pronouns, since these will be used in most basic sentences.


Personal pronouns

Chinese pronouns are very simple, with no grammatical cases. Let’s start with singular pronouns.

Singular pronouns

  • 我 (wǒ) I/me
  • 你 (nǐ) you (singular, informal)
  • 您 (nín) you (singular, polite)
  • 他 (tā) he/him, or general third person
  • 她 (tā) she/her
  • 它 (tā) it

All of these are written the same in Traditional and Simplified form. Note that there are two words for “you”, which is also common in other languages. 你 (nǐ) is the informal form, while 您 (nín) is the polite form, used for example with elders.

For third person pronouns, there is no gender distinction in spoken Chinese, as all variations are pronounced exactly the same (tā). There are also other less common variations in writing:

  • 牠 (tā) it (exclusively for animals); Traditional Chinese only. Simplified form is also 它 (tā)
  • 祂 (tā) third person pronoun for deities

Plural pronouns

Once you know the basic singular pronouns, forming plural pronouns is easy! Just add the plural marker, 們 /们 (men)!

Click here for Traditional Chinese
  • 我們 (wǒmen) we/us
  • 你們 (nǐmen) you (plural, informal)
  • 您們 (nínmen) you (plural, polite)
  • 他們 / 她們 / 它們 (tāmen) they/them

Additionally, there is also a version of “we/us” that is specifically inclusive (i.e., you and me):

  • 咱們 (zánmen) we/us (inclusive, you and me)

Click here for Simplified Chinese
  • 我们 (wǒmen) we/us
  • 你们 (nǐmen) you (plural, informal)
  • 您们 (nínmen) you (plural, polite)
  • 他们 / 她们 / 它们 (tāmen) they/them

Additionally, there is also a version of “we/us” that is specifically inclusive (ie, you and me):

  • 咱们 (zánmen) we/us (inclusive, you and me)

Possessive pronouns

Again, it’s easy to form possessive pronouns! Just add the possessive particle, 的 (de):

Click here for Traditional Chinese
  • 我的 (wǒ de) my/mine
  • 你的 (nǐ de) your/yours (singular, informal)
  • 您的(nín de) your/yours (singular, polite)
  • 他的 / 她的 / 它的 (tā de) his/hers/its
  • 我們的 (wǒmen de) our/ours
  • 你們的 (nǐmen de) your/yours (plural, informal)
  • 您們的 (nínmen de) your/yours (plural, polite)
  • 他們的 / 她們的 / 它們的 (tāmen de) their/theirs

Click here for Simplified Chinese
  • 我的 (wǒ de) my/mine
  • 你的 (nǐ de) your/yours (singular, informal)
  • 您的(nín de) your/yours (singular, polite)
  • 他的 / 她的 / 它的 (tā de) his/hers/its
  • 我们的 (wǒmen de) our/ours
  • 你们的 (nǐmen de) your/yours (plural, informal)
  • 您们的 (nínmen de) your/yours (plural, polite)
  • 他们的 / 她们的 / 它们的 (tāmen de) their/theirs

Examples

Now try to read and translate the following sentences:

In Traditional Chinese
  • 他是我們的老師! (Tā shì wǒmen de lǎoshī!)
  • 你和我是好朋友。 (Nǐ hé wǒ shì hǎo péngyǒu.)
  • 我愛她,但是她不愛我。 (Wǒ ài tā, dànshì tā bù ài wǒ.)
  • 這是我的,那是你的 。 (Zhè shì wǒ de, nà shì nǐ de.)
  • 他們給我你的書。 (Tāmen gěi wǒ nǐ de shū.)
  • 你們的家很大。 (Nǐmen de jiā hěn dà.)

Here’s some additional vocabulary to help out :wink:

  • 是 (shì) is/are
  • 老師 (lǎoshī) teacher
  • 和 (hé) and
  • 好 (hǎo) good
  • 朋友 (péngyǒu) friend
  • 愛 (ài) love
  • 但是 (dànshì) but
  • 不 (bù) no/not
  • 這 (zhè) this
  • 那 (nà) that
  • 給 (gěi) give
  • 書 (shū) book
  • 家 (jiā) house/home
  • 很 (hěn) very (also used in place of 是 (shì) as “is/are” before adjectives)
  • 大 (dà) big

In Simplified Chinese
  • 他是我们的老师! (Tā shì wǒmen de lǎoshī!)
  • 你和我是好朋友。 (Nǐ hé wǒ shì hǎo péngyǒu.)
  • 我爱她,但是她不爱我。 (Wǒ ài tā, dànshì tā bù ài wǒ.)
  • 这是我的,那是你的 。 (Zhè shì wǒ de, nà shì nǐ de.)
  • 他们给我你的书。 (Tāmen gěi wǒ nǐ de shū.)
  • 你们的家很大。 (Nǐmen de jiā hěn dà.)

Here’s some additional vocabulary to help out :wink:

  • 是 (shì) is/are
  • 老师 (lǎoshī) teacher
  • 和 (hé) and
  • 好 (hǎo) good
  • 朋友 (péngyǒu) friend
  • 爱 (ài) love
  • 但是 (dànshì) but
  • 不 (bù) no/not
  • 这 (zhè) this
  • 那 (nà) that
  • 给 (gěi) give
  • 书 (shū) book
  • 家 (jiā) house/home
  • 很 (hěn) very (also used in place of 是 (shì) as “is/are” before adjectives)
  • 大 (dà) big

Change log:

My family - 我的家庭 (Wǒ de jiātíng)

In this lesson, let’s learn to introduce our (immediate) family. First, let’s learn the word for house/home/family, which is the same in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese:

家 (jiā) ~you may recognize it from the phrase 大家 (dàjiā), literally “big” + “house”, or “everyone”

For brief overview of the character, it is composed of a roof symbol 宀 housing the character for pig 豕. This is from ancient times when people used to live under the same roof with livestock.
Why the character for ‘family’ has a pig inside a house

Now without further ado, let’s introduce our family!

Here’s a sample introduction for a family of five:

Here is the lesson in Traditional Chinese

我的家庭有五個人: 爸爸,媽媽,哥哥,姐姐和我。 (Wǒ de jiātíng yǒu wǔ gèrén: Bàba, māma, gēge, jiějie hé wǒ.)

Vocabulary:

  • 家庭 (jiātíng) family/household
  • 五 (wǔ) five
  • 個 (gè) (general measure word; used for people, i.e. an individual)
  • 人 (rén) person
  • 爸爸 (bàba) dad / 父親 (fùqīn) father
  • 媽媽 (māma) mom / 母親 (mǔqīn) father
  • 哥哥 (gēge) older brother
  • 姐姐 (jiějie) older sister
  • 弟弟 (dìdi) younger brother
  • 妹妹 (mèimei) younger sister
Here is the lesson in Simplified Chinese

我的家庭有五个人: 爸爸,妈妈,哥哥,姐姐和我。 (Wǒ de jiātíng yǒu wǔ gèrén: Bàba, māma, gēge, jiějie hé wǒ.)

Vocabulary:* 家庭 (jiātíng) family/household

  • 五 (wǔ) five
  • 个 (gè) (general measure word; used for people, i.e. an individual)
  • 人 (rén) person
  • 爸爸 (bàba) dad / 父亲 (fùqīn) father
  • 妈妈 (māma) mom / 母亲 (mǔqīn) father
  • 哥哥 (gēge) older brother
  • 姐姐 (jiějie) older sister
  • 弟弟 (dìdi) younger brother
  • 妹妹 (mèimei) younger sister

Note that Chinese uses a measure word 個 Simplified: 个 (gè) to indicate the number of people. For now, just remember to always add this when talking about how many people there are.

Note also that when refering to your siblings, birth order is important. Older siblings are given a distinction versus younger siblings. In Chinese, you don’t call your older siblings by their name, but by their titles, 哥哥 (gège) or 姐姐 (jiějie), as a form of respect, similar to how you don’t normally call your parents by their names. (This is why in English subtitles you sometimes get the translation of someone calling their siblings “older brother” or “older sister”, which sounds awkward in English, but is perfectly natural in Chinese.)

Females also generally have the radical 女 (nǚ), meaning “woman” on the left part of the character.

As you may have more or less than five people in your family, here’s some additional vocabulary: (these are the same in Traditional and Simplified):

  • 一 (yī) one
  • 兩 (liǎng) two, when used to indicate how many of something; use 二 (èr) when counting or specifying order
  • 三 (sān) three
  • 四 (sì) four
  • 五 (wǔ) five
  • 六 (liù) six
  • 七 (qī) seven
  • 八 (bā) eight
  • 九 (jiǔ) nine
  • 十 (shí) ten
  • 兄弟 (xiōngdì) brothers (兄 also means “older brother”)
  • 姐妹 (jiěmèi) sisters
  • 兄弟 姐妹 (xiōngdì jiěmèi) brothers and sisters/siblings
  • 父母 (fùmǔ) parents

If you have more than ten members in your family, no worries! Numbers are easy in Chinese once you can count to ten, and this will be the next lesson.

Here are some more examples!

In Traditional Chinese
  • 你有幾個弟弟? 我有兩個弟弟。 (Nǐ yǒu jǐ gè dìdi? Wǒ yǒu liǎng gè dìdi.) How many younger brothers do you have? I have two younger brothers.
  • 你的妹妹是我的朋友。 (Nǐ de mèimei shì wǒ de péngyǒu.) Your younger sister is my friend.
  • 他認識我的姐妹。 (Tā rènshì wǒ de jiěmèi.) He knows (is acquainted with) my sisters.
  • 爸爸給媽媽一個吻。 (Bàba gěi māmā yīgè wěn.) Dad gives mom a kiss. :*
  • 哥哥,來吃吧!(Gège, lái chī ba!) Gege, come eat!
  • 我沒有兄弟姐妹。 (Wǒ méiyǒu xiōngdì jiěmèi.) I don’t have siblings.
In Simplified Chinese
  • 你有几个弟弟? 我有两个弟弟。 (Nǐ yǒu jǐ gè dìdi? Wǒ yǒu liǎng gè dìdi.) How many younger brothers do you have? I have two younger brothers.
  • 你的妹妹是我的朋友。 (Nǐ de mèimei shì wǒ de péngyǒu.) Your younger sister is my friend.
  • 他认识我的姐妹。 (Tā rènshì wǒ de jiěmèi.) He knows (is acquainted with) my sisters.
  • 爸爸给妈妈一个吻。 (Bàba gěi māmā yīgè wěn.) Dad gives mom a kiss. :*
  • 哥哥,来吃吧! (Gège, lái chī ba!) Gege, come eat!
  • 我没有兄弟姐妹。 (Wǒ méiyǒu xiōngdì jiěmèi.) I don’t have siblings.

Change log:

I will never learn Chinese but I love the symbols and explanations.

Good to know you enjoy it, moogle :content:

Updated the previous lesson with some examples :smile:

Numbers 數 / 数 (shù) - counting 1-99

For this lesson, let’s learn to count in Chinese!

Simplified: 数 (shù) is the Chinese word for “number”. When pronounced with the third tone (shǔ) [Citation needed], the same character means “to count”. And when combined with the word for “learn” or “study”, 數學 Simplified: 数学 (shùxué) is the term for “Mathematics”.

In the last lesson, we already learned the numbers 1-10, which are the same in Traditional and Simplified Chinese:

  • 一 (yī) one
  • 二 (èr) two, when counting or specifying order
  • 三 (sān) three
  • 四 (sì) four
  • 五 (wǔ) five
  • 六 (liù) six
  • 七 (qī) seven
  • 八 (bā) eight
  • 九 (jiǔ) nine
  • 十 (shí) ten

Chinese numbers work similarly to Arabic numerals in the decimal system. That is, to get 11, we just put together 10 and 1, or 十一 (shíyī). How do you think we would write 15?

To get 20, we put 2 and 10 together, that is 二十 (èrshí). To get 21, that’s 2 10’s and 1, or 二十一 (èrshíyī). With this system, you can easily count to 99!

I was considering typing out all the numbers to completely illustrate, but I’ll just link to this post from https://blogs.transparent.com instead, which goes all the way to 100, 一百 (yìbǎi), and even throws in the number zero, 零 (líng) for no extra charge!

And there you have it, counting in Chinese is as easy as 一二三!

Change log:

  • Added “Citation needed” comment for pronunciation of 數 (shǔ) “to count” - as per google translate, it is still pronounced with the 4th tone (shù).
  • Edited with dreamtimer.sourceforge.io/endecoder/

Large Numbers

Hi everyone, 大家好 (dàjiā hǎo). For this lesson, we’ll be dealing with large numbers. In English, Numbers are grouped by 1,000’s , with a new term introduced for every 1,000 of the previous term:

Numerals English interpretation
1,000 1,000 ones = 1 thousand
1,000,000 1,000 thousands = 1 million
1,000,000,000 1,000 millions = 1 billion
1,000,000,000,000 1,000 billions = 1 trillion

In Chinese, large numbers are grouped by every “ten thousand” or 萬 / 万 (wàn), with a new term for every 10,000:

  • 10,000 “ones” = 萬 / 万 (wàn) “ten thousand”
  • 10,000 “ten thousands” = 億 / 亿 (yì) “hundred million”
  • 10,000 “hundred millions” = 兆 (zhào) “trillion”

For the full table:

Click here for Traditional Chinese
Numerals Chinese Pinyin Interpretation
1 (yī) "one"
10 100 1,000 十 一百 一千 (shí) (yībǎi) (yīqiān) (10 “ones”) (100 “ones”) (1,000 “ones”)
10,000 一萬 (yīwàn) 10,000 “ones” = 1 "ten thousand"
100,000 十萬 (shíwàn) 10 “ten thousands”
1,000,000 一百萬 (yībǎi wàn) 100 “ten thousands”
10,000,000 一千萬 (yīqiān wàn) 1,000 “ten thousands”
100,000,000 一億 (yīyì) 10,000 “ten thousands” = 1 "hundred million"
1,000,000,000 十億 (shíyì) 10 "hundred millions“
10,000,000,000 一百億 (yībǎi yì) 100 “hundred millions”
100,000,000,000 一千億 (yīqiān yì) 1,000 “hundred millions”
1,000,000,000,000 一兆 (yīzhào) 10,000 “hundred millions” = 1 "trillion"
Click here for Simplified Chinese
Numerals Chinese Pinyin Interpretation
1 (yī) "one"
10 100 1,000 十一百一千 (shí) (yībǎi) (yīqiān) (10 "ones ") (100 “ones”) (1,000 “ones”)
10,000 一万 (yīwàn) 10,000 “ones” = 1 "ten thousand"
100,000 十万 (shíwàn) 10 “ten thousands”
1,000,000 一百万 (yībǎi wàn) 100 “ten thousands”
10,000,000 一千万 (yīqiān wàn) 1,000 “ten thousands”
100,000,000 一亿 (yīyì) 10,000 “ten thousands” = 1 "hundred million"
1,000,000,000 十亿 (shíyì) 10 "hundred millions“
10,000,000,000 一百亿 (yībǎi yì) 100 “hundred millions”
100,000,000,000 一千亿 (yīqiān yì) 1,000 “hundred millions”
1,000,000,000,000 一兆 (yīzhào) 10,000 “hundred millions” = 1 "trillion"

Notes:

  • For factors of 200 and above, the character 兩 / 两 (liǎng) is used in place of 二 (èr) for 2.
    • 200 = 兩百 / 两百 (liǎng bǎi); Note: 二百 (èr bǎi) may also be used in some regions
    • 2,000 = 兩千 / 两千 (liǎng qiān); * Incorrect: 二千 (èr qiān)
    • 2,222 = 兩千兩百二十二 / 两千两百二十二 (liǎng qiān liǎng bǎi èrshí’èr); Note: For place values below 200, use 二 (èr)
  • For Chinese, there’s no need to specify every single place value. If none is specified, it’s understood to be the next place value. (need additional verification for this, as other reference sites including google translate don’t seem to agree :meh:)
    For example:
    • 1,200 = 一千二 (yīqiān èr); no need to specify 百 (bǎi)
      This is contrary to English, where “one thousand two” = 1,002. In Chinese, zero or 零/〇 (líng) should be specified to indicate skipping the next place value:
      1,002 = 一千零二 or 一千〇二 (yīqiān língèr)
  • When writing dates, numerals for the year are written and read out and individually:
    • Year 2020 = 二零二零年 or 二〇二〇年 (èr líng èr líng nián); Or simply 2020年

Exercises:

What numbers are these?

In Traditional Chinese
  • 九百四十 (jiǔbǎi sìshí)
  • 八千七 (bāqiān qī)
  • 兩萬零五百 (liǎng wàn líng wǔbǎi)
  • 一千五百三十二萬 (yīqiān wǔbǎi sānshí’èr wàn)
  • 六億零十二萬 (liù yì líng shí’èr wàn)

In Simplified Chinese
  • 九百四十 (jiǔbǎi sìshí)
  • 八千七 (bāqiān qī)
  • 两万零五百 (liǎng wàn líng wǔbǎi)
  • 一千五百三十二万 (yīqiān wǔbǎi sānshí’èr wàn)
  • 六亿零十二万 (liù yì líng shí’èr wàn)

Additional references:


Change log:

  • Revised structure and formatting
  • Added note on 兩 / 两 (liǎng) for factors greater than 200

Blessings 福

Being alive in this world,
Health is a blessing,
Happiness is a blessing,
Contentment is a blessing,
Having people care is a blessing,
Caring for others is a blessing,
Helping others is a blessing,
Actually, everywhere around us is a blessing,
As long as we are broad-minded,
We can be happy forever.

Transcription in Simplified Chinese

人生在世,(rénshēng zàishì)
健康是福,(jiànkāng shì fú)
快乐是福,(kuàilè shì fú)
开心是福,(kāixīn shì fú)
有人关心是福,(yǒurén guānxīn shì fú)
关心别人是福,(guānxīn biérén shì fú)
帮助别人是福,(bāngzhù biérén shì fú)
其实我们身边外外 都是富,(qíshí wǒmen shēnbiān wài wài dōu shì fù)
只要心胸广,(zhǐyào xīnxiōng guǎng)
就会永远幸福。(jiù huì yǒngyuǎn xìngfú)

Transcription in Traditional Chinese

人生在世,(rénshēng zàishì)
健康是福,(jiànkāng shì fú)
快樂是福,(kuàilè shì fú)
開心是福,(kāixīn shì fú)
有人關心是福,(yǒurén guānxīn shì fú)
關心別人是福,(guānxīn biérén shì fú)
幫助別人是福,(bāngzhù biérén shì fú)
其實我們身邊外外 都是富,(qíshí wǒmen shēnbiān wài wài dōu shì fù)
只要心胸廣,(zhǐyào xīnxiōng guǎng)
就會永遠幸福。 (jiù huì yǒngyuǎn xìngfú)

Change log:

  • Added transcriptions
2 Likes

Ive actually been trying to learn Chinese!

xie xie!

Oh that’s nice :slight_smile:

Me too

great id love to practice my chinese with other people!
\

I’ve been studying Chinese now for about 2 years and I am finally feeling that I become at least a little bit conversational with it :lol: This is definitely the most difficult language I have touched on so far.

Which methods do you use for studying? And even more interestingly: what is your motivation to pick up such a daunting language?

I am using DominoChinese. Been studying for 3 months now. Hanzis are easy for me becase of my previous Japanese studies :slight_smile: But I am in no way conversational. I can read simple books though.

I took 2 years of chinese in college. Now I am using www.duolingo.com and rossetta stone that i get with my library card and also there is a chinese course on www.coursera.org